Weekly Review — October 4, 2016, 1:34 pm

Weekly Review

A train derails in New Jersey, Rodrigo Duterte likens himself to Adolf Hitler, and a blind hoarder in Brooklyn discovers she has been living with the decomposing corpse of her son for 20 years

WeeklyReviewAvatar-Sherrill-WPU.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debated each other at Hofstra University in New York. During the debate, Trump stated that not paying income tax makes him “smart” and speculated that the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee may have been perpetrated by “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”[1] A poll found that 53 percent of Americans thought Clinton won the debate.[2] Congress voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill that will allow American victims of terrorist attacks to sue complicit foreign governments; the White House announced the United States would be sending 615 additional ground troops into Iraq; and the state of Texas pulled out of the federal Refugee Resettlement Program.[3][4][5] In South Carolina, a 14-year-old boy killed his father and then shot two students and a teacher at an elementary school playground, and in California, police shot and killed Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man who was holding a vape device.[6][7] It was reported that police officers use confidential databases to look up personal information on co-workers, celebrities, and their significant others.[8][9] In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte likened himself to Adolf Hitler while addressing his plan for the country’s estimated 3 million drug users. “I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said.[10]

A New Jersey Transit train derailed and crashed in the Hoboken Terminal, killing one woman waiting on the platform and injuring 108 other people; Dutch-led investigators concluded that the missile system that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine was brought into the country from Russia and returned the same night; and a Russian company debuted a new model of children’s bed in the shape of a Buk missile launcher as part of its Future Defenders of the Motherland product line.[11][12][13] The United States abandoned talks with Russia over Syria after Russia refused to end the bombing of Aleppo, and the Syrian government attempted to attract tourists to the city with a new advertisement featuring music from Game of Thrones.[14][15][16] Colombian voters rejected a peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that would have ended a 52-year-long war in which about 220,000 people have died; the International Criminal Court declared the destruction of antiquities to be a war crime; and a French civil servant sued his government over the right to smile in passport photos.[17][18][19][20]

Hackers took control of a digital billboard in Jakarta and played a pornographic film, a church in Western Australia had its windows broken by a gang of children between the ages of four and eight who were armed with small rocks, and a Pittsburgh man was given 30 days to catch a wild rooster on his property before being penalized by the city. “I called the zoo,” the man said in court, “but they said they didn’t have the capabilities to catch a rooster.”[21][22][23] Forty-six French cows broke out of their pen and 22 ate themselves to death in a food store, and a Memphis woman returned home to find two burglars having sex on her couch. “They just had a big old nasty party,” she said.[24][25] The Bureau of Land Management replaced a Utah trail marker that said “Negro Bill” with one saying “Grandstaff Trailhead,” and the Fairbanks, Alaska, school board proposed changing the name of an elementary school memorializing a pedophile nicknamed the “Strawberry King.”[26][27] A 68-year-old Florida millionaire discovered that his 24-year-old wife was his biological granddaughter.[28] Eight employees fired for abuse at a Colorado center for the disabled blamed supernatural powers when residents were found with words like “kill” and “die” etched into their skin.[29] An elderly, legally blind hoarder in Brooklyn discovered that she had been living with the decomposing corpse of her son for 20 years, and doctors speculated that a Utah man may have contracted the Zika virus from his dying father’s tears.[30][31] The Rosetta space probe flew into a comet after completing a successful 12-year mission, and, in Reykjavik, city officials turned off all street lights to improve the view of the northern lights.[32]

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Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

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Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

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In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
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In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Amount Arizona’s Red Feather Lodge offered to pay to reopen the Grand Canyon during the 2013 government shutdown:

$25,000

A Brazilian cat gave birth to a dog.

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